Countdown to Kickoff
Tide Has Good Day as SEC Opener Draws Near



Sept. 17, 2008

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama football team held a two-hour practice in full pads Wednesday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility, as preparations continue for Saturday’s Southeastern Conference opener at Arkansas.

“Practice went well today and we made some progress,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said following Wednesday’s workout. “I think the players are working hard to prepare for this game.  This is certainly a challenging game for us to go on the road and play an SEC West team in the first rattle right of the box.  It’s similar a little bit to what we had to do last year when we went to Vanderbilt. 

“(Arkansas) is 2-0 and a very good team. This will be a difficult environment for our players. I think the most important thing about playing on the road is getting the players to focus on the game and don’t get affected by external factors, the noise the crowd or the circumstances in the game and focus on the next play.”

No. 9 Alabama will meet the Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 11:30 a.m. at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.  The game will be regionally televised by Raycom Sports with Dave Neal (play-by-play), Dave Archer (analyst) and Dave Baker (sideline reporter) calling the action. The game will also be available on ESPN GamePlan outside the nine-state SEC region.

INJURY UPDATE: Alabama senior offensive lineman Marlon Davis has practiced this week and should be available for the Saturday’s SEC opener at Arkansas.  Davis missed the Western Kentucky game last week after he suffered a strained hamstring against Tulane on Sept. 6.

SEC COACHES TELECONFERENCE: Coach Saban participated in the SEC Head Coaches weekly teleconference on Wednesday and here are some of his comments from that call:

On difference in Coach Petrino’s offense, particularly passing game, as other SEC teams:
“It’s different in some ways, but it’s a quality passing game. It’s very well thought out.  It’s very sound, in terms of how they protect the quarterback, how the quarterback re-directs the protections, the routes they run and how they utilize their personnel.  It’s similar to what he did at Louisville and he also did a lot of the same concepts at Atlanta.  He is an outstanding offensive coach.  His brother, Paul, is an outstanding coach as well.  He does a great job with the quarterback, in terms of coaching. A guy doing the right things, and they are certainly playing well offensively right now throwing for over 300 yards a game and one of the nationally-ranked teams offensively.”

On Antoine Caldwell:
“He has played very well.  He played very well in last week’s game, especially.  His leadership is critical.  I think that is one of the biggest differences in our team is guys like Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Johnson and some of the other players are starting to emerge as leaders and affect other people in a positive way.  I don’t think there is anything more critical to team chemistry than that.”

On strength of SEC with five teams in this week’s Associated Press Top 10:
“I think it’s an outstanding league, and I think there are a lot of reasons for it.  There is a lot of passion and tradition at the schools.  There are a lot of good high school football prospects in the southeast, which is certainly an advantage in terms of quality of players.  I think the coaches in the SEC right now are as strong as they’ve ever been, in terms of knowledge, experience and track records.  Those guys all know how to recruit and have a reputation for getting good players.  I just think there are a lot of reasons for it, but it is very strong right now from top to bottom.  I think that is good for the competition in the league and you better bring you’re A-game every week, that’s all I can tell you.”

On number of first-year players on your team and how you will handle first road game:
“Well I think, hopefully our game in Atlanta, which was not truly a road game, it was half of a road game and it certainly gave some of those guys experience of what it’s like to play away from home, even though it might not be considered a total road game. I think the biggest thing with young players is that if they can stay focused on that task and don’t get affected by external factors, which when you play on the road, the crowd and the momentum of the game can affect guys and that the thing we try to teach them. They have to stay focused on the next play and do their job and affect the game with what they can control, which is how they play.  None of that other stuff really matters.  You preach that, but sometimes guys have to experience it actually and hopefully their experience in Atlanta will help a little bit in this game.”